UW welcomes transfer students and works to make the transition easier than ever.
By Micaela Myers
Heading off to college may conjure visions of recent high school graduates packing their hand-me-down cars as tearful parents smile and wave goodbye. But nearly half the students in each University of Wyoming incoming class arrive as transfer students with some college already under their belts.
UW welcomes transfer students from across the country and works to make the transition easier than ever. Recent collaborations with all seven Wyoming community colleges created two-plus-two program articulation agreements, which outline for students which courses to take during their two years at community college and which they will take during their two years at UW to complete their degrees in eight semesters. Below, you’ll meet three recent transfer students making the most of their time at UW.
Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez, senior, social sciences
If you had asked her at the age of 11 where she would be at age 21, Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez says she would never have seen herself as a senior in college. “I’m the sixth of seven children, and my siblings never graduated from high school. They started working to help support the household. That’s what I saw as my future. I thought I’d drop out at 16 and help my parents and work. That was my mindset—I thought there was nothing else.”
But during middle school in Rock Springs, Wyo., she discovered GEAR UP, a U.S. Department of Education program that stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.
“They kept reminding me each month that college was a possibility,” Hernandez Marquez says. “They took me on my first visit to a college. They showed me applications and financial aid and the steps I needed, because I didn’t have the role model. In my junior year, I realized it was really a possibility. There were so many scholarships out there that could help me. My senior year, I applied to Western Wyoming Community College.”
During her time at WWCC, she saved the money and took the test to become a U.S. citizen, which qualified her for a federal GEAR UP scholarship. After earning her associate degree, Hernandez Marquez transferred to UW, and she will graduate in December 2017. She hopes to earn a master’s degree and then work in international social work, specifically in international adoptions.
“I found transferring here easy because there were people I knew, and there were a lot of resources made available to us as transfer students,” she says. “Everyone has been very inviting. I love that atmosphere.”
This past summer, Hernandez Marquez attended the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. “The GEAR UP leadership academy is very competitive,” she says. “I don’t think I would have gotten that opportunity if I went elsewhere.”
Hernandez Marquez also works as a GEAR UP mentor to incoming freshmen and is thankful for the role the program had in her life. “I love being that role model,” she says. She also appreciates the second family UW’s GEAR UP team—including Mel Owen and Jenny Ingram—provides.
Hernandez Marquez took advantage of UW’s study-abroad opportunities, spending nearly three weeks studying social work in London last summer. “It was life changing,” she says. “It’s these programs that the university has available for people that make it so much better. I encourage people to come to UW. It’s so easy to study abroad, and there are so many opportunities.”
Andrea Sanchez Walk, senior, molecular biology
Being hungry for days on end is a feeling one never forgets. That’s why Andrea Sanchez Walk, a full-time pre-med student at UW, makes it a priority to volunteer through her church and at the Laramie Soup Kitchen. There was a time when her parents didn’t have enough to eat, and she doesn’t want anyone else to have to endure that.
“My dad said they went a couple of months with just bread and water. He knows how hard it is to not be fed,” she says. “I always kept that in the back of my mind.”
Sanchez Walk emigrated from Peru with her parents at age 6. Learning English in elementary school in Rock Springs, Wyo., she soon became her parents’ interpreter and helped them start a cleaning business to make ends meet.
“I had to take care of my brother, too. Both of my parents worked really hard, so I hardly ever saw them,” she remembers. “It was hard but definitely worth it. I am blessed and thankful that my parents came to the United States. I was privileged to be raised in Wyoming—such a wonderful state that exposed me to many great experiences. I think I earned the honor to call myself an American because the United States helped me become what I am today.”
Sanchez Walk always dreamed of going to college, but money was tight. “I didn’t think I was able to go to college because of the circumstances I was in,” she says.
Still, she gave it a shot. Her freshman year at Western Wyoming Community College, she paid her own way by helping her parents with their cleaning business while getting her foot in the door doing undergraduate research.
“The first day of my undergrad career, I knocked on the door of a professor who does research and said I wanted to join the lab,” she says. “I volunteered at first and learned a lot from it.”
Professor Bud Chew’s team allowed Sanchez Walk to join its study looking at iron deficiency and how it affects heart function in rats. She soon proved her worth, and by her sophomore year, she was the student research leader. Chew also helped her secure student research funding through INBRE (IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence) to help pay her tuition as the team continued to study heart function in rats, this time looking at protein expression.
Completing her associate of science degree, Sanchez Walk was named the student of the year out of all seven of Wyoming’s community colleges and transferred to UW in
the fall of 2015 as an INBRE Transition Fellow.
“Now I study on sheep hearts, which are larger and more representative of a human heart,” Sanchez Walk says of her research with Assistant Professor Wei Guo. The team works on many projects, but she focuses on how an obesogenic diet (one that causes obesity) effects protein expression in the heart of pregnant sheep and their fetuses.
Walk plans to attend medical school, possibly specializing in cardiology. At UW, she jumped into student life and is a member of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Alpha Epsilon Delta Health Preprofessional Honor Society and Women’s Leadership Program. She hopes to inspire more Latinos to attend college.
“In general, you don’t see a lot of Latinos on campus, so my goal is to be a role model for them,” Sanchez Walk says. “I hope to see more of them applying to the university and excelling in their education. I want them to know that even when you don’t have money or hope, you can do it.”
Kristina Kline, senior, agroecology
A nontraditional student coming back to school after taking a number of years off, Kristina Kline planned on only earning her associate degree from Sheridan College. “Then I realized it would be easy to get my four-year degree, and it was going to be worth it in the long run,” says Kline, who grew up in Gillette, Wyo. Kline is taking advantage of a pilot 3+1 program that allows horticulture and agroecology students who complete their associate degrees at Sheridan College to then do a year online and a final year at UW to compete their bachelor’s degrees.
“It’s been really nice,” she says. “I’ve been able to take online classes right now, and then I’ll be heading to Laramie to do my final two semesters of classes.”
Kline heard about the program through UW Assistant Professor Sadanand Dhekney at the Sheridan Research and Extension Center, where she conducted undergraduate research.
Last summer, Kline completed a research internship with Dhekney at a grape vineyard near Sheridan College. “Since the summer, I’ve been working more in the biotechnology lab, where we’re looking at salt tolerance and inserting genes into the grapes to make them more tolerant to salt and drought stress,” she says.
Kline appreciates the opportunities for hands-on learning and applying classroom knowledge to real-world environments. “For me, it’s the way I learn best,” she says. “Plus, I’ve been able to go to conferences and see other research and extension offices and see other people’s research. I’ve been able to meet a lot of people in the field who have similar interests as mine. There are a lot of opportunities.”
Kline will graduate in fall 2017 and hopes to work in the production setting of a greenhouse. She appreciates the caring faculty and staff from UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The teachers are wonderful and invested,” she says. “To have that kind of support is really a helpful thing, especially as a nontraditional student.”